The Apple Business Chat platform is fundamentally transforming the customer-business communication towards messaging with a focus on customer experience. Unlike other messaging platforms that are mostly designed to be intrusive so as to gather and monetize their users’ data, the business chat platform is a more participative and immersive way for businesses to connect with customers while respecting their privacy. With business chat customers can ask businesses questions about their products, raise service requests and even make purchases directly from the messaging app using Apple Pay or book appointments directly in the Calendar through an intelligent dialogue.
In this age of digital convenience businesses are looking to reach their “digital customers”at the right place (channel), at the right time.. The constant influx of new technologies is helping these businesses to redefine their customer experience across multiple platforms / channels and increase their “customer – brand” engagement. Today, branding is not just about “brand awareness” but “brand engagement” that helps enhance “brand loyalty”, with customers expecting maximum convenience when getting in touch with businesses.
To develop relationships with their customers, businesses need to build consistent and seamless experiences across platforms, channels and all digital touchpoints. Apple’s entwined ecosystem of devices (iphone, ipad, mac, apple watch, airpod), platforms (Siri, iMessage, Calendar, Spotlight, Safari, Augmented Reality Kit) and services (Apple Pay, Apple Card, Apple Maps) offers businesses the opportunity to create seamless (familiar) and unified experiences for their customers across platforms and devices.
As customers are embracing quick and easy digital assistance for customer service, conveniently from their digital devices, businesses (big or small) across sectors are re-engineering their customer journey using Chatbots (through their websites and messaging apps). While Chatbots promised to increase reliability and efficiency (by increasing automation) in providing contextually relevant experiences to the customers, they have been riddled with the issues of their adoption, usability, functionality, “discoverability” and “privacy” (including user data monetization).
With the Business Chat platform, customers directly communicate with businesses/brands (with encrypted conversations) through the iMessage app (which provides a consistent and intuitive experience) without having to utilize any third-party apps or services - thereby making accessibility to the business “convenient” and “personal”. As Apple states on their developer website, “Business Chat is a powerful new way for organizations to connect with customers directly from within Messages. Using Business Chat, your customers can get answers to questions, resolve issues and complete transactions on their iPhone, iPad, Mac and Apple Watch”.
Customers can discover and initiate a business chat conversation from Apple Maps, Spotlight search, SIRI results, Safari listings or iOS apps with the actual conversation happening in the iMessage app on the Apple device (in a form of communication that the customers already know). The continuum of experience established by Apple’s ecosystem of devices and services enables a user to initiate an action from one Apple device and securely carry forward the conversation to any other Apple device (either continuing the same activity or progressing to a sequence of different activities). This is brought to life by the frictionless handoff between the Apple devices (iPhones, Macs, iPads or Apple Watches) – collaborating and complementing one another with relevant information or functionality.
Apple’s emphasis on “privacy ensures that the customers are the ones to initiate a conversation on the business chat, and no customer information is shared with the business (including user credentials, profile, contact information, personal details or browsing history) thereby warding off unsolicited advertisements, offers or spams from the business. Apple’s approach has been to make Business Chat a “valuable” and “useful” product to its audience which is easy to use, efficient and designed with privacy in mind - unlike other messaging platforms that are mostly designed to monetize their users.
Customers today seek a multi - (digital) device experience that is consistent and continuous, as they switch / interact with more than one digital device to accomplish their tasks over time. Though each device plays an important role – a “tablet” for content consumption, a “PC” for content creation, a smartphone for “Mobile communications” and a smartwatch for “health and fitness”- the real power of these devices is in how they are used together in creating a “natural and a fluid experience” that serves user’s needs between the series of interactions and contexts with multiple digital devices.
From making compelling digital devices to cross selling digital services on their devices, Apple has created a digital ecosystem with a loyal customer base – leading to the adoption of iOS devices (and stickiness) into their customers “digital lives”. With Business Chat – Apple is laying the foundation of a platform, that would enable businesses to create “a seamless and a unified customer service experience” for their customers without encroaching upon their privacy. The platform is based on a hybrid approach such that when a sophisticated human response is required (in cases of an angry customer or someone with an emotional request), the platform smoothly hands over the conversation to a live agent (an expert), thereby combining intelligent engagement with human intelligence to provide the best customer experience.
LOOKING AT THE FUTURE
If this is the future of smart business communication, messaging and support, what would it look like from a user’s perspective? To begin with, it is possible to place quick access links to the business messaging service right next to the business URL of an organization (ex: a manufacturer of washing machines or a provider of travel products). This makes the business messaging service easily discoverable. Users need to just click on the link and talk to the ‘hybrid’ system at the other end. User can initiate the action from one Apple device and securely carry forward the conversation to any other Apple device, enabling brands to better engage with their customers, through any channel depending on their preference.
It is simple to see that the overall effect of the integration would be a seamless and consistent user experience—something that is not possible today for users of other messaging platforms where the platforms are independent and isolated from other applications on the user’s device.
Simple as it sounds, organizations wishing to create highly consistent, continuous and integrated digital experiences (across Apple Devices and Apple Services) would need to work with a technology partner that understands customer experience, has the technical prowess to enable AI-driven intelligent systems, has domain capabilities along with the tools and the expertise in Apple’s devices, platforms and services ecosystem.